Green Glossary

Green Glossary of terms and phrases you will come across when looking at green building. You may even just be researching sustainable construction or producing your thesis. Here is a good source of green key words used in industry.

AD Anaerobic Digestion – The use of anaerobic bacteria in a controlled vessel to digest organic waste that produces three outputs, methane, liquid digestate and solid digestate. Can be used to favour solid waste for composting (dry system) or methane (wet system) liquid - can be used for fertilizer. AD is a key option for diverting organic waste from landfill. Also see WRAP Biogas

Biological diversity / Biodiversity Gas produced from AD, which is made up mostly of methane (CH4), which can be burnt to generate heat and/or electricity.

Biomass The full array of living species of plants, animals, and micro organisms on Earth, as well as the range of genetic variety within each species.

Biofuels Generic term for fuels derived from plant material or waste products such as fats and oils.

Bioremediation This is the process by which living organisms (typically bacteria) are used to decontaminate polluted or dirty areas. Though simple by definition, bioremediation is actually very complex requiring expertise in a variety of areas including; microbiology, biochemistry, hydrogeology, engineering and applied chemistry. Biotechnology offers a cost-effective, natural and non-intrusive way to clean and remediate contaminated systems. For more information on the Fragile Earth range of bacterial cleaners click here.

BBA British Board of Agrément provides independent certification for building products.

BPEO The concept of Best Practicable Environmental Option (BPEO) was first introduced in 1976 by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP), cautioning that removal of pollution from air could result in increased pollution of land and water. Across land, air and water, BPEO procedure establishes the option that provides the most benefit or least damage to the environment as a whole, at acceptable cost, in the long term as well as in the short term.

BREEAM For over a decade, Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) has been used to assess the environmental performance of both new and existing buildings. It is regarded by the UK's construction and property sectors as the measure of best practice in environmental design and management. The 2006 Code for Sustainable Homes, launched by the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) on 13th December 2006, is based on BRE’s environmental assessment method for housing, EcoHomes (a version of BREEAM for buildings) with mandatory performance levels set in key areas.

Breathing Wall A wall system that allows the wall to breathe. It is best for all the materials in the walls construction to be breathable in order to let vapour and moisture out. This reduces damp and helps provide a healthy living space.

Brownfield "Is abandoned, idle, or underused industrial and/or commercial facilities/sites where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination." (Mendler and Odell, 2000). Burdens Environmental offer a range of products for Brownfield sites and their redevelopment. For further information click here.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) Is the main greenhouse gas created by the combustion, the so-called greenhouse effect, emitted primarily from human activity such as burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity and vehicles. It is the belief of scientists that greenhouse gases are causing the earth's climate to change.

Carbon Footprint is a measure of the impact that activities/people/businesses have on the environment in terms of the amount of green house gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide.

Carbon Neutral The concept of carbon neutral, does not necessarily mean a person, organisation or even society should not produce carbon but that it is offset with carbon balancing measures such as tree planting.

Carbon Off-set To help become carbon neutral activities such as tree planting can off-set carbon producing actives such as the burning of fossil fuels to produce power. Trees lock in carbon emissions.

Cladding A protective, insulated or aesthetic fixed layer added to the exterior walls of a building.

CIRIA Construction Industry Research and Information Association.

Cold bridging Occurs between building materials and is a major cause of condensation and mould growth in buildings. There are several varieties of mould that can grow on the inside surface of buildings in certain conditions and some can be toxic. Products with little or no cold bridging thus provide a healthy environment by reducing moisture and mould growth. For more information please visit the BSRIA.

Combined Heat Power (CHP) Industrial and commercial plant machinery produce waste heat, this energy is then used to provide heat and generate electricity. Can then be used in local ‘Community Energy Programmes’

Community Energy Programmes Large energy or power producing systems that are used to provide efficient supplies of energy to local communities such as that described above.

Compressive Strength The maximum compressive stress a material can withstand without failure. Materials with high compressive strength thus have good load bearing capacity.

DCER Design Carbon Emission Rate.

DHP District Heat and Power.

Ecology Study of the living community and the non-living environment in a specific area functioning together as an integral whole.

Ecosystem A community of plant and animal species that interact together along with their physical and chemical environment.

Effluent A liquid waste. See also trade effluent for businesses.

EIFS Exterior Insulation and Finish System

Feedstock Source material for composting or AD systems.

Geothermal Energy Is found in the form of heat beneath the solid surface of our planet. This energy can be harnessed by using ‘Ground Source Heat’ systems.

Grey water Is wastewater collected from sinks, showers, baths, and air conditioning condensate, and is treated for reuse.

HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) The term used to refer to the mechanical systems which heat, cool, filter or dehumidify air in a room or building. An example of an alternative HVAC system would be Ground Source Heat. For more information on Ground Source Heat click here.

Hydrocarbon An organic chemical compound of hydrogen and carbon, called petroleum. The molecular structure of hydrocarbon compounds varies from the simplet, methane (CH4), a constituent of natural gas, to the very heavy and very complex. Octane, for example, a constituent of crude oil, is one of the heavier, more complex molecules.

Hygroscopic A material that attracts moisture from the atmosphere.

Insulation Batt A semi rigid block of insulation. For more information on insulation materials click here.

K-Value The thermal conductivity of a material, the lower the value the better the material is at storing heat and retaining temperatures.

Kilowatt (kW) 1000 watts.

Kilowatt-hour (kWh) One thousand watts acting over a period of 1 hour. The kWh is a unit of energy.

Lath and Plaster The most common wall finish prior to the introduction of drywall. Thin wood strips (lath) were nailed onto the framing as a base for the sand/lime plaster. More practical options to Lath and Plaster are now available such as Reed Boards.

Life Cycle Incorporates the construction, use of, and alterations to the facility throughout the its whole life cycle. Despite the best efforts at designing and constructing a sustainable building it can only remain so if it is operated responsibly and maintained properly. For example the use of toxic cleaning materials can undo all the efforts aimed at achieving a high standard of indoor air quality. See our range of Bacterial Cleaning products for our environmental cleaning solutions. Facilities must be operated and maintained with the security, safety, health, comfort, and productivity of their occupants in mind, and with an understanding of the next generation’s need to reuse and recycle building components. The importance of this phase is to be found in the assessment of the effectiveness of the strategies, over time, at achieving the goals.

LPG - Liquid Petroleum Gas The generic name for Propane and Butane, is a low carbon content fuel source produced by the oil and gas industries either as a product of the oil refining process or occurring naturally in gas fields. For further information on LPG products please click here.

Precautionary Principle Commercial imperative assumes that to do something is better than to do nothing as a precaution against unproven or hypothetical scenarios, typically global warming and the effect of CO2 discharge.

Post-use "Materials collected from outside the individual manufacturing industry after it has been used for its primary purpose. This can include material from agricultural use, commercial, industrial, retailing, distribution and domestic outlets, but in all cases the material will have been used for the purpose for which it was manufactured." (British Polythene Industries 1994)

Proximity Principle The principle implies that waste should generally be managed as near as possible to its place of production, as transporting waste has a significant environmental impact. As outlined in Waste Strategy 2000, the proximity principle can make the link between the waste hierarchy and BPEO. Where the BPEO for a particular waste stream is an option towards the lower end of the hierarchy, such as incineration or landfill, this can often be because the environmental impact or cost of transport to a distant reprocessing facility outweighs the benefit of recovering value from the waste. The proximity principle places a responsibility on the producers of waste to take responsibility for the waste produced. This is because the waste should be dealt with 'on the doorstep' as opposed to exporting the problem somewhere else.

Micro-generation Defined as generation of a capacity of less than around 50 kW. Or in plain terms, micropower generation is suitable for households and small businesses.

Micropower Technologies permit "distributed generation," meaning that power is generated at or near where it is used. Examples are solar photo voltaics, small wind turbines and micro-hydropower.

Non-potable water This is the term for water that is used for irrigation, cooling towers, toilet flushing, and related uses.

Thermal Mass The ability of a material to absorb heat. Materials with a high thermal mass operate much like thermal sponges, because they cool a building during the summer by absorbing heat from the sun and releasing it over a period of time. Thermal mass should be used in addition to, but not a substitution for insulation.

Renewable resources "Are resources that are capable of regeneration at a rate greater than its rate of depletion" (Mendler and Odell, 2000).

R-Value Insulation is rated in terms of thermal resistance, called R-value, which indicates the resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating effectiveness.

SCADA Supervisory control and data acquisition is a category of software application program for process control, the gathering of data in real time from remote locations in order to control equipment and conditions. SCADA is used in power plants as well as in oil and gas refining, telecommunications, transportation, and water and waste control. To find out more about Burdens Environmental's commercial waste water treatment systems click here.

Source Control The control of stormwater runoff at or near its source; it is recognised as the primary technique in achieving a SUDS solution.

Surface Water Run-off When rain water lands on a surface - depending on how porous the surface is will result in the amount of surface water run-off. Minimal surface water run-off helps reduce flooding and strains on existing drainage systems. Reduce surface water run off through methods such SUDS and Green Roofs.

Sustainable Development “A widely-used and accepted international definition of sustainable development is: 'development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs' - Globally we are not even meeting the needs of the present let alone considering the needs of future generations.” (Extract from the UK Government sustainable development web site).

TCER Target Carbon Emission Rate.

Thermal Bridging A thermal bridge is a localised area of lower thermal resistance in the building envelope resulting in higher heat flow and lower internal surface temperatures. As well as increasing heat loss from the building envelope, thermal bridging can cause localised condensation as surface temperatures may be reduced below the dew point (condensation temperature) of the air in the space. This is a particular danger in buildings where the Relative Humidity (RH) may be high, such as canteens, laundries, swimming pools and some factories.

Thermal conductivity Measure of the ability of a solid or liquid to transfer heat.

Thermal mass The amount of heat storage capacity available.

Trade effluent Trade effluent is any effluent (liquid waste) that is discharged from any premises being used for carrying on a trade or industry. Any liquid, with or without suspended particles, which is wholly/partially produced in the course of any trade or industrial activity carried out at “trade premises” will be classed as trade effluent. The only effluents which are not classed as Trade Effluent are clean, uncontaminated surface water (i.e. clean rainwater which has not been contaminated when running over your site) and domestic sewage.

Urban Heat Island Effect Inner city areas with large areas of concrete and non porous surface lock in heat giving rise to the Urban Heat Island Effect. Environmental solutions such as Green Roofs help to reduce the effect.

U-Value The U-value concept is used to quantify heat loss through plane elements of the building envelope or shell. U-value is defined as the overall thermal transmittance of a particular construction element (a wall or a roof for example), including the effect of surface resistance. It depends upon the thickness and thermal conductivity of its component layers and, in the case of air cavities, the emissivity of the surfaces.

Vapour Permeability 'Breathable' is used as a short way of saying 'a high level of water vapour permeability'.

WRAP - Waste and resources action program WRAP is a not for profit company created in 2000 as part of the Government's waste strategies across the United Kingdom.

Wood pellets, clean wood waste or specifically grown plants such as willow or Miscanthus used for the production of heat and power from combustion. Can be pellet for a very clean burn or chipped.

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